French café refuses entry to disabled guide dog owner

Café owners in France refused entry to a woman who uses a wheelchair, on the grounds that her assistance dog was not allowed inside. The incident was captured on video.

20 August 2020
By Joanna York

The dog owner posted the video to Facebook on Monday morning (August 17). It since has been viewed over 2 million times. 

In the 20 second clip, the dog owner is visible in her wheelchair at the entrance of the café Les Saveurs du Temps in Castres (Tarn, Occitanie). The owner of the business tells her: “Whatever the rules, with or without the dog, you’re not coming into my café. I have the right to refuse customers.” 

A police officer present at the scene does not intervene. 

Refusing entry to disabled against French law 

In an accompanying statement on the social media site the dog owner, called Mathilde, wrote: “I wanted to go inside and buy a coffee, but the owner shut the door in my face because I was with my assistance dog.” 

French law states that places open to the public that refuse entry to assistance dogs accompanying people with disabilities are liable for a fine.

People with disabilities in France can prove their status using one of two cards: the carte d'invalidité (which will expire by 2026, at the latest) or the more recent carte mobilité inclusion.

A friend of the café owner told news source France Bleu that Mathilde had “blocked the entry” to the café for over an hour while she reminded the owners of the law and called local police. 

Disability minister tweets support

French minister for people with disabilities, Sophie Cluzel, tweeted her support for Mathilde along with the video clip of the incident. She said exclusion of the disabled was not only illegal in France but also “discrimination, a shameful humiliation and a mistake”.

The café owners have responded that, as they roast their own coffee, they are technically a food-processing site, and that animals are not allowed inside under the terms and conditions of their workplace. 

Both Mathilde and the café owners have brought charges against each other. Mathilde’s against the cafe owners are for “non-access to a person with disabilities with an assistance dog". 

The café owners are pressing charges against Mathilde for defamation. Since the video of the incident was published online, they say that they have received so many threats that Facebook has banned public comments on the café's page.  

A police investigation is now underway.

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Disability groups in France call for more action

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